Boston. TWELVE of America's biggest conservative foundations are pouring money into fellowships that support like-minded students and scholars, academic conferences, faculty chairs and scholarly books.
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy reported that between 1992 and 1994 these philanthropic organisations gave $90 million to 145 academic institutions, programmes or organisations.
Most went to 16 top institutions, many of them considered liberal, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley. The biggest beneficiary was the University of Chicago, known for its faculty's advocacy of free-market economics.
The idea is "to build an intellectual foundation for conservative public policy views and to help organise conservative scholars and students to reverse curriculum trends on the nation's public campuses," said Sally Covington, the study's principal investigator and director of the Democracy and Philanthropy Project at the NCRP.
The committee advocates philanthropy for the socially, economically and politically disenfranchised and for organisations that support racial and ethnic minorities and the environment.
Ms Covington said the programme "represents a distinct departure from the philanthropic mainstream, which by and large has been non-ideological.
"These grantees are heavily organised toward the marketing of their conservative policy ideas. They have implemented a strategy of multiplying the number of institutional voices pushing their public policy agenda forward."
She said there had been no comparable response from the political left. The perceived drift towards non-traditional disciplines, such as race and gender studies, and towards "political correctness", in academia are targets for the conservative thrust.
"These foundations and their grantees have helped to manufacture and propagate the idea of an intolerant and entrenched left in American higher education," Ms Covington said of what she called "a highly sophisticated coordinated" campaign. It's hard to imagine that this is not going to have a cumulative adverse impact on non-traditional areas of scholarships."
The study, called Moving a Public Policy Agenda: The Strategic Philanthropy of Conservative Foundations, says right-wing philanthropists are using their financial clout to attack "liberal" education by popularising the idea that a dominant and intolerant left has eroded academic standards. It is also building a network of faculty, students, alumni and trustees who agree.
More than $2 million of foundation money went to help publish and distribute scholarly books on conservative topics, including titles such as Professors and the Demise of American Education, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Corrupts our Higher Education and Illiberal Education.
During the same two years, the foundations also channelled an additional $120 million to conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, alternative media watchdog groups, conservative law firms and legal causes and news organisations for issue-oriented public affairs or news reporting.
Donors include the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, the Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundations, the Philip M. McKenna Foundation, the J. M. Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Henry Salvatori Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Smith Richardson Foundation.